This weekend my siblings and I had the task of clearing out my mom’s house so it could be put on the market. Unfortunately when our parents lose independence, we are often left to figure out what’s best for them. In my mom’s case, it meant selling her home and moving into my brother’s house.
While the house wasn’t my childhood home, it was the home my mom lived in for the last 13 years. It was the only house of hers that my kids ever knew. My parents bought the house with the hopes of enjoying retirement together, but unfortunately my dad passed away from leukemia a few short years after retiring.
After my dad died, my mom reinvented a new life for herself so to speak. Not only did she receive a heart transplant, but she continued to thrive independently with new friends. She volunteered at the hospital where she received the transplant. She always encouraged others that were having a difficult time. She ventured out socially with new friends and had coffee with neighbors.
Unfortunately, a series of unrelated medical issues this year has rendered my mom unable to live independently. I was watching one of my parents lose independence at the young age of 71. Thankfully it wasn’t a decision that we had to make on her behalf, as she was in full agreement that she shouldn’t live alone. However, no matter how much we all knew the truth, I think the reality of it is still settling in for all of us.
In two days, we emptied out her house entirely. Of course we removed furniture and other material things, but we also emptied out an entire lifetime of memories. We had to make choices about what things she would want to keep and what she could part with.
I found myself questioning absolutely everything:
“Does this silver spoon from my childhood really mean something to her?”
“What in the world is my mom doing with a sable?”
“How many sets of sheets will she want or need?”
“Does she want to keep my dad’s tie rack/valet?”
“What ARE these things?”
“Does she really need 4 bottles of nail polish remover?”
It was a mixture of reality and emotion. I felt so guilty, as if we were invading her privacy and stripping her of all of her memories.
While she can’t live independently, my brother and his wife are building out a small garage apartment for her at their house. The benefit is that she’ll have her own space so she can at least feel independent. The hope is that she may even be able to drive again which would give her some freedom that she doesn’t currently have.
On the 3 hour drive home last night, I realized that it’s time for me to embrace the change and accept it. Instead of my mom baking treats in her kitchen as a treat to us, maybe we’ll be the ones making treats and bringing them to her. Instead of going on adventures to the zoo or the local farm, we can play board games or maybe teach my mom how to play the Wii. Instead of my mom making us dinner, it’s our turn to make her dinner.
So, while things may be very different, she’s still here and that’s what’s most important.
(photo credit of elderly couple: freeimages.com)